Yale

Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
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55
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Trip End Feb 14, 2011


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Where I stayed
Wal-Mart (Milford, CT)

Flag of United States  , Connecticut
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today I drove into the city of New Haven to visit Yale University.  I did not visit Yale as a prospective school, but simply out of cultural and historical interest.  I ended up remaining on or around the campus for the duration of the day.

My first stop upon reaching the university was to find a place to park, which is never easy near a large school.  Then I located the visitor center and joined up with the next tour group.  During the tour we learned a number of interesting facts and legends.  I took them all with a grain of salt as many universities seem to over-glorify their achievements and histories.  A few of Yale's claims include the popularization of a large grassy space surrounded on all sides by buildings, known as a quadrangle or "quad."  They also claim to have invented frisbees from the days when students used to use empty pie tins from a local bakery for throwing discs.  Another bit of superstition is tied to the statue of President Woolsey, one of the university's most beloved presidents.  The story goes that President Woolsey was very involved with the student community and was present for nearly every sporting activity.  In particular, he would always be present when the rowing team was about to depart, and he would wish them luck as he shoved the boat into the water with his foot.  The team noted that they always had a much higher measure of success when they had been given a shove from the lucky foot.  Now the statue of President Woolsey, though mostly oxidized, has a very shiny foot from the many students rubbing the foot before finals or other events, hoping to imbue themselves with a little of that same luck. 

One other apparent subject of interest at Yale is the university itself and the grand architecture used to create it's formidable walls.  The design is primarily gothic and was used to relate the university to such reputable schools as Oxford and Cambridge in England.  The style also seemed to reflect a certain feeling of age and wisdom that they hoped would lend itself to the prestige of their school.  Many of the techniques employed by the chief architect of the school actually aimed to make the school look as if it were one of the old castles it sought to mimic.  Various techniques were employed to age the appearance of the buildings such as pouring acidic and corrosive chemicals down the stones to wear them away, burying wooden shingles under ocean beaches to give them an aged look before installing them, purposefully and methodically breaking and repairing the stained glass windows that glint from every direction, and intentionally leaving certain things (gargoyles) missing to make it appear that they had fallen victim to age an broken or perhaps been destroyed during some castle siege.  The effect certainly does its job, and if you don't scrutinize too closely, it's easy to imagine yourself wandering around buildings that are much older than their true age, which is actually under a century.  Yale is also home to two buildings that the funders or architects originally desired to be cathedrals.  Both the library and the gym were originally desired to be some sort of religious structure, but the university required the funding for other purposes.  The architect of the Sterling Memorial Library desired to design a cathedral, but was told the university needed a library.  With that in mind, he designed a "Cathedral of Knowledge" with non-secular stained glass decorating the interior.  The other building (which we did not actually visit) was the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, also the second-largest gymnasium in the world.  The story goes that Mrs. Payne Whitney desired to build the school a cathedral, but the school desired a gym, so they built the gymnasium to look on the exterior as if it could be a church.  Mrs. Whitney, being very old was driven past the finished building and accepted that her cathedral had been built, passing away shortly after, and never knowing that her building would become known as the "Cathedral of Sweat."  Another fun little tale, but I question how much truth could really be in it.

After the tour was completed, I spent a few hours wandering the campus on my own and taking the photographs that I had refrained from taking during the tour.  Upon walking past the School of Drama, I noticed a poster advertising a performance for that night, so I decided to locate the school's box office and attend the show. 

The show being performed was Arcadia.  It would be a little difficult to explain the entire plot line, but it was a very interesting (though long) show, and the vast majority of the cast were very talented.  To attempt to briefly explain, the show focuses on two separate time periods a couple of centuries apart but both taking place on the same set.  In the modern period, the audience sees a group of people who are studying the history of an old estate and the people who once lived there.  In the other time period, the past, the audience is able to see what was actually going on, letting the audience see the humorous parallels and inconsistencies the researchers of the present-time are coming up with.  With decent helpings of both comedy and heavy drama, the show was really able to hold my attention.

Once the performance was finished, I continued my journey, driving to Hartford, CT and feeling a hint of gladness that distances between my stops are quite short in this portion of the country. 


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